Monday, November 27, 2006

Debunking the Fertility Gap

A new talking point of nonsense (and yes that is a huge and growing category in today's world o' politics) tumbled out on this page recently in a comment left by a reader, in which he cited something called "the fertility gap".

The comment arrived from Ned, and while I appreciate readers and visitors of all types, that phrase "fertility gap" has been rattling around the media and pundits for some few weeks or months now and so here I am, offering you my take on this new statistical wisdom.

An explanation of this phrase is humbly provided via the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal:

According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%"

There are some most significant words in the WSJ article cited, most prominent of course is the word "If."

If you can identify 100 unrelated people who call themselves "liberal" (or perhaps the pollsters just assumed a person they contacted declared they were Democrat, Progressive, Libertarian or Independent really meant the heinous "liberal") and ask them if they have children you have indeed discovered a "random group sample". Emphasis on "random."

"If" I asked 100 parking meters if they were created by aliens and they all refused to communicate any response to my question, then is their non-denial an admission they are alien creations or were they forced into silence by their Alien Overlords?

Once the idea of the proposed gap was presented, others took up the notion and called it "news." Here's something from USA Today, seeking to define election outcomes present and future based on who has kids and who does not and where they are and etc etc:

Democrats represent 59 districts in which less than half of adults are married. Republicans represent only two.

Democrats represent 30 districts in which less than half of children live with married parents. Republicans represent none.

"The biggest gaps in American politics are religion, race and marital status," says Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg."

Jeepers, Anna! There's just gaps everywhere we look! Aaiiiieeee!!!

The above percentages take on even a more curious meaning when The Latest Statistic shows that the number of married Americans is on the decline and now a minority, something Wintermute mentioned in a post recently.

Given the USA Today stats, it would seem the majority of Americans who identify themselves as part of some political party are far more likely to be Democrats. Has this shift caused the Republicans to, as the old saying has it, "do it for Old Glory?"

Ellen Goodman weighed in on the Fertility Gap hoo-ha thusly:

I never knew there was a conservative gene. If so, can it be tweaked? Is that another reason to support stem cell research?

(writer Phillip) Longman went on to say, '“When secular-minded Americans decide to have few, if any, children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide.'” Imagine giving an evolutionary advantage to folks who don't believe in evolution.

Should neo-con parents expect that lining the cribs with wee plush elephant toys, or wee plush donkeys if they are Democrats, will somehow instill ideologicalical infants?

What might occur "if" during foreplay prior to procreation, one or the other person involved were to think "liberal" and not "conservative" thoughts? Would the caress create some pre-natal political stance?

Should exit polls be focused in the delivery room of America's hospitals? And who should host the TV News special??

Also we now have, for lack of a better phrase and to follow the nonsensical naming of randomly obtained statistics, what could be called The Abstinence Gap.

Our government is now funding millions and millions into programs to encourage adults between the ages of 19 to 29 to simply abstain from having sex. No talk of contraception or anything which might reduce pregnancy, just tell 'em to be celibate. I would imagine at age 30 there might be a preponderance of passion.

So is there some kinda reverse psy-ops taking place? If we tell them not to have sex, they will and hopefully they'll all have conservative babies, or once over the age of 30 the parents will more likely be a conservative whose conservative gene is more enhanced .... but what if ..... if .... if ....

All this reminds me of a question once posed by writer Tom Robbins:

"If a chicken and a half lays an egg and a half in a day and a half, then how long will it take a monkey with a wooden leg to kick all the seeds out of a pickle?"


  1. A purely random (that is, not scientific) observation I've made over the years is that the liberals I know ( I love that word) are about evenly raised out of both conservative and liberal households. Very rarely do I meet a conservative who comes from a liberal household. Which is to say, that even if the conservatives are supposedly having more babies, a goodly percentage of those babies aren't necessarily going to grow to become liberals. But more than likely, the liberally raised babies will remain liberal. But that's just a hypothesis based on my observation.

    Nothing scientific here.

  2. What astounding douchebaggery.

  3. Um... This is what I get for chiming in at the end of the work day.

    I said: "...a goodly percentage of those babies aren't necessarily going to grow to become liberals."

    I Meant to say: "a goodly percentage of those babies aren't necessarily going to grow to become conservatives."

  4. carpenterjd11:50 AM

    So are they telling liberals that we should start procreating? Because I don't want to. I work with kids and have no desire to be around them 24/7. Besides for me to have kids I would have to make some changes or the state would have to relax it's marriage and adoption requirements.
    David and I just would not make a "traditional" family, which according to the USA Today article you cited is obviously the best way to raise kids.

  5. Anonymous4:29 PM

    celibate, i'm thinking, is refraining from marriage. not having sex is something else. and don't go to your dictionary, what you said and what you meant to say aren't the same.

  6. yer "thinking"?? now that's funny!

  7. The Editor here. Bonafide student of the English language. Got the papers to prove it.

    Without looking in a dictionary (but any and all are welcome to check my accuracy), I'm about 99.9% sure that the first definition most modern dictionaries will cite for the word "celibate" is (and I'm paraphrasing here folks) "someone who abstains from doing the nasty." Of course, this is the strictly modern usage of the word, but it is the most understood usage. If you all want to be accurate on the word, it is supposed to indicate someone who is both unmarried (e.g., a monk, a priest) and abstaining from sex.

    Given that Joe was using the modern and widely accepted meaning of the word (which we often use instead of the preferable term, "sexual abstinence"), I'd have to conclude that what Joe said and what Joe meant to say are in agreement. Also, I asked him myself. According to Joe, he meant what he said and said what he meant.

    I don't, however, think that Anonymous meant to have that glaring comma splice.
    Or perhaps I'm wrong.

  8. guess i should have just said "tell them not to poke" and everyone woulda known the meaning. yeesh.